Alina Markowski died on June 28, 2011. If she had lived less than a month longer, she would have celebrated her 101st birthday.
Alina won some minor renown for having won the Ohio women's championship in 1955, 1957, 1959, 1960 and 1961.
After her first championship victory in 1955, Willa White Owens put the following note in the Jan. 5, 1956 :
Mrs. Owens stated that Mrs. Markowski had "been playing chess for only two years" when she won the championship. This intrigued me to research this lady futher. I found on the web repeated mentions that Alina Markowski learned chess as age 48 and age 61 and while this makes for good copy, none of this is true.
Here is Alina's story:
cropped photo of 95 year old Alina Markowsifrom her obit in the San Diego "Union-Tribune."
Alina Friedman was born in Krakow, Poland on July 18, 1910. When she was two, her family moved to Chicago, but 11 years later they returned to Poland. It was during this stay on Poland that her sister, Wanda, taught Alina chess. When she was 15, the Friedmans moved back to Chicago, then to Toledo, Ohio. Alina, who studied ballet and folk dancing, attended the University of Toledo. In 1930 she took a position in the registrar's office which she held until 1951 when she was promoted to Registrar, a job she held for many years.
In 1935, while she was performing a solo Polish folk dance at a festival at Walbridge Park in Toledo, she was spotted by Steven Markowski who introduced himself to her after the perfomance. They married later that year. Steven Markowski, who passed the bar in 1930, went on to become a successful attorney and 5 time president of the Ohio Chess Federation (1956 - 1961).
Steven was also born in Poland in the small village of Wierzbnik. His family moved Pittsburg in 1915, then drifted to Cleveland and eventually landed in Toledo.
The couple played casual chess at home throughout the years, but it was only in 1953 that the Markowskis started taking chess seriously and entered their first tournaments. Steven entered the men's Ohio Championship and scored +4-3 (incidentally the same score with which Alina would win her first Ohio women's championship 2 years later), ironically his best result ever.
Steven L. Markowski
Alina also entered competitve chess in 1953, but I couldn't find her results leading up to the 1955 championship.
The pair were considered the strongest husband-wife team in Ohio (and one of the strongest in the nation) although they played at a Class "B" level. They became very active in the Ohio chess scene, pariculalry since Steven spent many of those years as the Ohio federation's president and his wife as the leading chess lady.
Alina Freidman Markowski
Sadly Steven Louis Markowski, born on December 1, 1904, died from cancer on March 1, 1971 at the relatively youthful age of 65. Alina's life was only half over. In 1975, when Alina herself was 65, she retired as Registar of the University of Toldeo and moved, where else?, to Escondido in sunny Southern California where she naturally embraced the local chess scene.
According to an August 12, 2005 story in the San Diego "Union-Tribune" by Michelle DeCrescenzo:
As a chess player, I'm average, but my strong point was organizing," Markowski said. "I was most happy when I was organizing the women's teams."
She recruited local female players to organize the first regional chess tournament for women. She was an active board member and lifetime member of the Southern California Chess Federation, and wrote articles on women and chess for the organization's publication, "Rank & File".
The above article appeared on her retirement from competitive chess in 2005 - at age 95 - 30 years after moving to Southern California where she had membership in the San Diego Chess Club, the North County/Escondito Chess Club, both of which she had been an officer, and the Vista Chess Club; she held offices, including that of acting president, in the Southern Californina Chess Federation; she was a life member of the Correspondence Chess League of America (she started playing correspondence chess after her husband became unable to attend tournaments, took up postal chess and enticed her to do the same), a volunteer organizer for the U.S. Senior Open and had been a TD in 35 events; she also played around 200 rated game a year. In 2003, the San Diego Chess Club honored Alina by naming the qualifying tournament for the club championship the "Markowski Open."
[Mike Nagaran, then president of the North County Chess Club and a very strong player, who was interviewed in the above-mentioned article, had played around 100 games with Mrs. Markowski. He also wrote her obituary for the "Rank & File" and gave me access to it. Mr. Nagaran wrote, "She will be remembered by her friends and acquaintances for her friendly smile, welcoming disposition and always joyful nature." No one could hope for a better legacy. She had been living in an assisted living center since around 1985 where she had formed an informal chess club. I think no other word describes Alina Markowski better than irrepressible. ]
Here are a few more of Alina Markowski's games - they look a lot like my own games, nothing spectacular, but she does outplay her opponents. The first is from the US Open in 1991, when Alina was 81 while the other two are from 1993 when Alina was 83.
The USCF lists ratings back to 1991. Alina is on it with a high rating of 1649 in Feb. 1993. Steven Markowski, of course isn't listed. However a 1965 article from the chess column in the Toledo "Blade" gives Alina's rating at that as 1644 and Steve Markowski's rating as 1518. It's interesting to note that her rating didn't drop much as she aged, even though women competitors, as a rule, grew much stronger over the years.
A passing thanks to members ElizaLulu and mnag for their help.